Tonight’s Coffee and Chat is all about Ayres’ SI and Learning Disabilities with special guest working in the field of learning disabilities across the lifespan.
Come and Listen to our practising therapists and experts explore assessment tools, the role of consultation and how to deliver services that draw on the theory and practice of Ayres’ Sensory Integration.
Read about the application of Ayres’ SI in Learning Disabilities on this reference and reading list below.
Papers here include from therapists, Ros Urwin, whose Master’s in 2005 was the first UK study to investigate ASI with adults with learning disabilities in the UK, our colleague Rachel Daniels, whose work in this field was the focus of a research project and Ciara McGill, who we had the pleasure to teach on the journey that led to her Master’s Study publication with Ulster University.
Cahill, S.M. and J. Pagano. 2015. Reducing restraint and seclusion: the benefit and role of occupational therapy. American Occupational Therapy Association.
Champagne, T. and N. Stromberg. 2004. Sensory approaches in an-patient psychiatric settings: Innovative alternatives to seclusion and restraint. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing 42(9): 35–44.
Daniels, R. 2015. Community occupational therapy for learning disabilities: The process of providing Ayres sensory integration therapy and approaches to this population. Birmingham: European Sensory Integration Conference. www.iceasi-org
Department of Health. 2012a. Department of Health review: Winterbourne View hospital interim report. London: Department of Health.
Department of Health. 2012b. Transforming care: A national response to Winterbourne View Hospital: Department of Health review final report. London: Department of Health.
Department of Health. 2014. Positive and proactive care: reducing the need for restrictive interventions. London: Department of Health.
Gay, J. 2012. Positive solutions in practice: using sensory focused activities to help reduce restraint and seclusion. Victoria: Office of the Senior Practitioner.
Green, D., Beaton, L., Moore, D., Warren, L., Wick, V., Sanford, J. E., & Santosh, P. (2003). Clinical Incidence of Sensory Integration Difficulties in Adults with Learning Disabilities and Illustration of Management. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 66(10), 454–463
Lillywhite, A. and D. Haines. 2010. Occupational therapy and people with learning disabilities: Findings from a research study. London: College of Occupational Therapists.
Leong, H. M., Carter, M., & Stephenson, J. (2015). A systematic review of sensory integration therapy for individuals with disabilities: Single case design studies. Research in developmental disabilities, 47, 334–351.
Royal College of Psychiatrists. 2013. People with a learning disability and mental health, behavioural or forensic problems: The role of inpatient services. London: Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Transforming Care and Commissioning Steering Group. 2014. Winterbourne View – Time for change: Transforming the commissioning of services for people with learning disabilities [Bubb Report]. London: NHS England.
Urwin, R., & Ballinger, C. (2005). The Effectiveness of Sensory Integration Therapy to Improve Functional Behaviour in Adults with Learning Disabilities: Five Single-Case Experimental Designs. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68(2), 56–66.
Urwin, Rosalind and Ballinger, Claire(2005)The effectiveness of sensory integration therapy to improve functional behaviour in adults with learning disabilities: five single-case experimental designs.British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68(2), 56-66.
This paper describes a research project using a single-case experimental design (A-B-A), which aimed to explore the impact of sensory integration therapy (SIT) on level of engagement and maladaptive behaviour (measured through timed scores) and function (using Goal Attainment Scaling, GAS) for five learning disabled adults with tactile sensory modulation disorder.
Each phase lasted 4 weeks and consisted of 24 measurements in total. Individually tailored SIT was given twice weekly for 4 weeks during the intervention phase (B), immediately prior to each individual’s participation in his or her prescribed horticulture task. The changes between phases in engagement, maladaptive behaviours and function scores, measured as the difference between baselines and intervention, were analysed visually and statistically for each participant.
The intervention produced significant improvements in engagement for participant four, with a highly significant deterioration in scores for all five participants on withdrawal of SIT. All the participants’ maladaptive behaviour decreased significantly on the introduction of SIT. Although there was no significant change to GAS scores for four participants, participant four’s score improved significantly with SIT. The withdrawal of SIT resulted in a highly significant deterioration in GAS scores for participants one, two, four and five. This study may be the first to suggest that SIT is effective in improving functional performance in adults with a learning disability with a tactile sensory modulation disorder.
Thank you to the families who gave consent and our secret blogger OT for this contribution.
“A little while ago, two mums approached me and both asked about assessments for their children. Both were young adults, academically highly able and struggling with their self-organisation and motor skills.
Both young people consented to an assessment and completed, through self-report, the Adult/ Adolescent Sensory History (AASH) questionnaire. They were also assessed with the Sensory Integration and Praxis Test (SIPT). The SIPT is a standardised assessment with normative data for ages 4 through 8 years, 11 months. On this particular assessment tool, sensory integration and processing skills scores plateau at around this age, though the test is still informative for people beyond this age, who should have achieved.
The young lady assessed has a diagnosis of social anxiety and has low confidence, while the young man is quite a confident character. She has a history of bumps, trips and spills, and will tell anecdotes of these with great humour; while he prefers to focus on what he does well in conversation.
I love the AASH, the reports it gives highlight each sensory system, differentiate between discrimination and modulation difficulties and addresses motor planning, sequencing and social/ emotional aspects of sensory integration and processing needs.
It uses clear, non-patronising language and activities appropriate to adults and adolescents. It shows up really clearly a person’s (or their caregiver’s as necessary) perception of their sensory integration and processing needs and how these affect their day to day life. In this instance, the young lady highlighted many sensory processing needs.
The young man reported almost no difficulties, his only score in the primary sensory systems section was mild proprioceptive difficulties. When questioned as to the accuracy of his answers, he tended to reply “well, nobody likes that, do they?”
Having scored the AASH checklists, I completed a SIPT with each person. The SIPT is a battery of 17 tests which assess a person’s sensory integration and processing including perceptual-motor skills through tasks with standardised administration and normative data against which to compare an individuals test results. Guess which person showed more significant difficulties in the direct assessment?
On the SIPT assessment scores between -1 and +1 standard deviation are considered typical, above +1 are strengths and scores below -1 are of clinical significance and require support and will benefit from direct intervention.
The exception to this being Post Rotatory Nystagmus in which a low (below -1) or high score (above +1) indicates significant difficulty inhibiting response to vestibular information and often relates to a low Standing and Walking Balance score.
Here are the young lady’s SIPT results:
Definite movement, balance and body awareness difficulties but also some areas of significant strength, particularly around her visual skills and imitation, which she uses to compensate for her body awareness difficulties.
Here’s the young man’s chart:
Strong visual skills, compensating for significant challenges in the other areas.
This experience taught me so much. From the AASH scores, I was expecting the young lady to have much more problems in the SIPT than the young man, their conversation about their lifestyles confirmed this expectation. Still, then the assessment showed so clearly how much of that was related to confidence.
An evaluation based solely on checklists is not enough. It tells you what a person perceives to be their difficulties, guides the direction of evaluation and adds experiential evidence to the overall assessment.
A good questionnaire is evidence-based and norm-referenced, but it always needs to be triangulated with direct observation and where possible structured and standardised assessment. These tools can tell you so much about the respondent’s confidence and resilience and what they find easy or difficult in day to day life. But I have learned it is a mistake to rely upon one alone when assessing somebody’s sensory integration and processing skills and needs”.
The answer to a question on SI4OT, a FB group for OT’s curated by our social media team, includes this interesting article.
This study was focussing on the vestibular system, and the researchers tried to work out the exact amount of vestibular input needed in therapy. The results strongly suggest that it is very individualised and requires direct therapist observation to know. This is exactly in line with Ayres’ teachings. There is no exact amount that can be prescribed
The use of sensory input to support function, health and wellbeing is an art and a science.
The science is knowing for instance that habituation of tactile input to Ruffini nerve ending is usually fairly rapid – eg light touch as we put arms in shirt sleeves while habituation to pain receptors will vary a lot and maybe ongoing after tissue damage we can’t always see.
The art is that our response to sensory input to sensory systems will vary greatly and is very individualised. This response is not just linked to immediate registration and perception of the input – meaning and memory need to be considered too. Think about happy smells and songs that stay in your head all day. Think too about the response to trauma when a person smells their abuser’s perfume.
There is no recipe for how much to give and when. This is the art and science of ASI. So many factors impact on what a person needs and when to have an adaptive response.
This is why sensory input is not just something you can prescribe someone by saying;
“Give Jane 20 mins on a swing 3x a day”
Essential to practice is the person’s response to sensory input – Do they have an adaptive response?
“Ayres (1972b) described the adaptive response as central to praxis intervention. Adaptive responses are purposeful actions directed toward a goal that is successfully achieved, and the production of adaptive responses is thought to be inherently organizing for the brain. Ayres (1972b, 1985) further emphasized that SI intervention was a transaction among client, task, and environment.”
Bundy, A. and Lane, S. , Sensory Integration Theory and Practice, 3rd Edition, [Philadelphia]. Available from: FADavis.
Watching and seeing this response to input, alongside feedback from the parents/family/person is what we do to understand each person’s unique responses and pattern. However, knowing and remembering that many things can impact on this, day to day and even minute by minute is essential.